The Marathon distance varies each year, being determined by the previous year's performance. For example, the 1972 winner was Alex Repchuk, personnel officer of a Yellowknife gold mine, who went 153 holes and 36 hours. Therefore, in 1973 the low score for 153 holes would be the winner. However, after the Marathon is finished, anyone on his or her feet has the option of continuing play to establish a new standard. In this year's championship the original field of 34 had dwindled to four by Sunday morning, some 30 hours after the event had started. Repchuk had been forced out with a locked shoulder after a mere 117 holes. Three of the survivors were Yellowknifers—Otto Stable, a painting contractor; Sandy Hutchinson, the manager of the local hockey arena; and Mick Sparling, a millwright. The fourth survivor, and the eventual winner, was, surprisingly, a college student from California named John Davis. A seven handicapper, Davis stumbled groggily along, swinging mechanically, trying desperately to focus his eyes, which were puffed by sleeplessness and mosquitoes, long enough to see his ball in the sand.
"I don't know why I did it," Davis mumbled afterward. "It's crazy. Do it again? You're out of your head. I'm not going to play golf for a long time, like a year. I'm golf poisoned." After reaching the clubhouse for the last time, Davis sat with catatonic disinterest as he was informed he was the 1973 Midnight Marathon champ with an average of 40.9 strokes for each of the 17 rounds of nine holes he had played.
Though Davis was the official golf-by-score winner, local pride was salvaged when Hutchinson and Sparling easily won the golf-by-torture endurance contest. Still full of fight after the 153 "regulation" holes, Sparling, a frail-looking 139-pound 43-year-old, invited his partner out for a "few more whacks."
"Mick, I have to go to work at the bloody job tonight; we're putting down ice for a hockey school," said a somewhat less enthusiastic Hutchinson, pulling strongly on a beer.
"Come on, man, I can't play alone," Sparling persisted, giving evidence of why he is regarded as one of Yellowknife's best and most insatiable athletes. "We'll get serious now, a few more whacks will loosen you up for work."
So off the two went into the glare of the midnight sun. And 171 holes, 38 hours and 27 miles after they had begun, Hutchinson and Sparling finally called it quits, bringing to an end a happening that must stand—at least until next year—as a monument, if not to the game of golf then at least to man's grim determination to play the game.